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What Google Maps’ ‘Landmarking’ Of Marquee Brands Means For Local Businesses

"This is a perfect example of businesses not being able the control the user interface or the artificial intelligence of smart devices, maps and directories," says Yext's Lee Zucker. "What businesses can control are the facts these intelligent services know about your brand and its locations."

Over the past few weeks, Google Maps has been testing “real-sounding” turn-by-turn navigation by designating high-profile brands with clearly noticeable signs into points of direction.

In other words, instead of being told to turn north, south, east, or west, Google Maps will turn tell you to “turn left at the Burger King (or McDonald’s or Wendy’s Or Arby’s).”

As GrubStreet and Engadget have noted, the new “landmarks” feature is intended to make following Google Maps more “human-sounding.” At the moment, most of the landmarks appear to be QSR chains, which have the advantage of ubiquity and being easy to spot. Other types of well-known and well-placed structures will be included in tests.

But for now, there is a clear benefit of free advertising for chains that stand out.

Is there anything that smaller brands can do to attract those tempted to stop at Burger King instead of their business on the way from Point A to Point B?

“This is a perfect example of businesses not being able the control the user interface or the artificial intelligence of smart devices, maps and directories,” says Lee Zucker, Head of Industry/GM – Food Services Strategy, Product, GTM, at Yext (Full disclosure: Yext owns GeoMarketing. More details on that relationship here). “What businesses can control are the facts these intelligent services know about your brand and its locations.

“Marquee restaurant chains are often free standing, have familiar logos and are on corners of big intersections,” Zucker adds. “Prime placement for an instinctive purchase. “Since these ‘landmarks’ are so recognizable and way easier to spot than a street sign or unknown business, I feel that this is just an improvement of the user experience rather than any sort of promotion for the brand, although I’m sure those brands will benefit.”

Like anything with Google, it’s unclear if this is a beta or sticking around for the long term. So at the moment, it’s hard to advise businesses how to react. (We asked Google for comment as to whether brands can submit their locations to be designated as landmarks on Google Maps, but we have not received a response. We will update accordingly if we do.)

“Still, this comes down to my first statement, you never know what these intelligent services will do or change,” Zucker says, “but in order for Google to have the confidence to guide its users based on a restaurant landmark, they need to be certain that location exists, is open, and is visible from the street bringing together the background information of location data, lat/Long and hours into a better user interface on maps.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.